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Bringing Street Art to the Classroom at the American School of Milan

By Emma Harper
Bringing Street Art to the Classroom at the American School of Milan

Street art has moved out of alleyways and train stations and into the mainstream, with street artists now enjoying recognition with museum exhibitions and selling their works for large sums at auction houses. It has also entered art classrooms at the American School of Milan (ASM).
This past fall, three days of street art workshops culminated in the Loop X ASM street art event on 14 October 2018. In the primary school, students prepared for the Loop X ASM event by studying street art and even making it themselves.
“The first grade studied the work of Keith Haring, one of the world’s first famous street artists, and made their own Keith Haring figures,” explains Jenna Pallio, the primary school art teacher at ASM. “We talked about how Keith Haring used street art to communicate positive messages in communities and to bring people happiness.”
Grade 4 art classes focused on the work of Raptuz, one of the artists who would be participating in the Loop X ASM street art event. “We looked at his works and his particular style of segmenting imagery and using different values of color within shapes,” says Jenna. The kids then worked in partners to color a panther—ASM’s mascot—in Raptuz’s signature style.
As for the Grade 5 and upper school art classes, taught by Mary Marjerrison and Danielle Emerick, they hosted a special visitor over the three days leading up to the street art event: the Italian street artist Shine Royal. Shine—who also goes by his given name, Marco—inspired the students with his contemporary methods and themes.
“Marco intentionally made connections with every student in each of our classes, looking at their work with them, making suggestions,” Mary says. “He also considered where they were coming from—their interests and art and life experience—and was sensitive to this when he responded to them.”
High school students tried their hand at graffiti art outside in the open air, which introduced them to the challenges of controlling spray paint and also taught them more about painting and drawing with other media out-of-doors. Middle school students, meanwhile, focused on calligraphy as an important art form for the street artist. Each student tried writing their names in different ways with the aim of discovering their own style.
“It was wonderful to watch Marco share his own development as an artist with the kids. He discussed the values of slowing down and really focusing on one’s thinking and creating, no matter the art form. He also emphasized that the students should use their minds when making and designing, rather than processing their thinking through a computer. This strong message about the value of creating, and not having our noses in technology all of the time, was inspiring,” Mary says.
Marco’s message was adapted to the different developmental stages of each age group. Yet all the students, regardless of grade, were challenged over those three days to try new methods and grow as artists.
Marco also made sure to remind them that their growth in life is even more important than their development as artists. “He told the students, ‘Don’t lose yourself. You have to have beauty inside you,’” recalls Mary.
ASM’s street art week concluded with the Loop X ASM event, which was held concurrently with the PTO’s “Welcome Back” picnic on Sunday, 14 October. A parent at the school owns a company that provides paints for professional street artists and was generous enough to provide the school with various spray paints and water-based markers for both the workshops and the event.
As part of the event, street artists Raptuz and Cheone were invited to paint panther designs on two of ASM’s outside walls. In line with his style, Raputz’s panther was rendered in a bold geometric pattern with dazzling blues and purples. Cheone’s panthers, however, were much more lifelike; they almost resembled plush panther toys sitting with an American flag as a backdrop.
Even though there were plenty of games and other fun activities as part of the “Welcome Back” picnic, many kids sat and watched with rapt attention as the artists, often with headphones on and fully immersed in their art, completed their paintings. It even inspired some of the students to try their hands at street art, albeit with markers and paper —perhaps some future street artists in the making.
The artist visits and workshops were made possible through the ASM Fund for Excellence. This fund is the school’s main fundraising initiative to offer resources for learning opportunities and inspiring educational initiatives that go beyond existing academic programs and the classroom.

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